By Brian Heaton, Government Technology Staff Writer
Tech czars from all six New England states have joined forces to address mutual technology challenges and ways to cut computing expenses.
The conglomerate — dubbed the New England State CIO Collaboration — has had two meetings to talk about technology organization, strategy and what common ground exists between them. Specific topics discussed included cloud computing, enterprise architecture, cybersecurity, mobile strategy and procurement.
According to Rebecca Bolton, IT manager of the agency software division within the New Hampshire Department of Information Technology, one of the group’s main objectives is to establish a regional approach for negotiating with vendors that achieves lower costs for software and maintenance contracts.
“Many of us are facing the same budgetary constraints, the need to be much more aggressive with allowing employees to use newer technologies — tablets, iPhones, iPads — how we are all handling that implementation and research,” Bolton said. “Essentially we’re trying to learn from each other and leverage procurements better, because we’d be a larger buyer as a region than an individual state.”
Started in November and spearheaded by New Hampshire CIO Stanley “Bill” Rogers, the collaboration is still in its infancy. Meeting attendees consist of each state’s CIO, along with one or two additional state technology representatives, plus guests.
Bolton called the first meeting’s structure “fairly chaotic,” with CIOs dumping out ideas and issues as they surfaced. But she said the second meeting was more productive, with each state’s representatives providing an overview of their individual technology issues and a road map for work on cloud platforms, data center consolidation and mobile computing. In addition, three subcommittees were formed during that second meeting to look at server virtualization, multistate procurements and Oracle licensing agreements.
A third meeting is tentatively scheduled for July or August. Potential topics of discussion include consolidation of credit card processing, state versus municipal collaboration, performance management and transparency. Reports from the recently formed subcommittees are also expected this summer.
Bolton said the group is fairly informal, so other goals are being formulated as the process continues. There is no established charter and nothing discussed at the meetings is binding for any state, she added.
But by getting all the states’ technology issues on the table, Bolton feels the group potentially could find more opportunities for collaboration and discover existing areas where they can work together.
“To some extent there is already some of this collaboration happening, it’s just not very formal and we don’t even all know about it,” she said. “Some states don’t realize they can utilize another state’s purchasing agreement with [a vendor]. So we’re trying to educate ourselves and stay in sync with the opportunities out there.”